Irish-Catholic Immigration to America
Irish-Catholic immigrants came to America during colonial
times, too, and not all Irish-Catholic immigrants were poor.
For example, wealthy Charles Carroll immigrated to America in 1706. His grandson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, signed his name to the Declaration of Independence.
Irelands 1845 Potato Blight is often credited with
launching the second wave of Irish immigration to America.
The fungus which decimated potato crops created a devastating
famine. Starvation plagued Ireland and within five years,
a million Irish were dead while half a million had arrived
in America to start a new life. Living conditions in Ireland
were deplorable long before the Potato Blight of 1845, however,
and a large number of Irish left their homeland as early
as the 1820s.
In fact, Irelands population decreased dramatically
throughout the nineteenth century. Census figures show an
Irish population of 8.2 million in 1841, 6.6 million a decade
later, and only 4.7 million in 1891. It is estimated that
as many as 4.5 million Irish arrived in America between
1820 and 1930.
Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third
of all immigrants to the United States. In the 1840s, they
comprised nearly half of all immigrants to this nation.
Interestingly, pre-famine immigrants from Ireland were predominately
male, while in the famine years and their aftermath, entire
families left the country. In later years, the majority
of Irish immigrants were women. What can these statistics
tell us about life in Ireland during this period?